I don’t doubt that the story is true. But I wish another reporter would try to figure out who those sources were — because that may be at least as interesting a story.
Here’s why: Depending on who the sources are, the leaks to Carter and others might either have been a concerted effort by both the Leno and NBC camps to begin a gradual and trouble-free transition, or they could have been the opening round in new game of corporate backstabbing.
Interestingly, Carter never writes about whether he asked Leno to comment. That seems to suggest that the leaks came only from the NBC side, in which case they would be evidence of an NBC effort to push Leno out early.
Carter writes that despite the fact that Leno is still leading in the ratings, “many TV executives speculated that NBC could not wait too long to promote Mr. Fallon, or it might risk having Mr. Kimmel [Jimmy Kimmel, who is on ABC opposite Leno], 45, lock up the young adult viewers who are the lifeblood of late-night television.”
So, was Leno blindsided by the stories? Is this a reprise of NBC’s ham-handed effort in 2010 to juggle Leno and Conan O’Brien?
In short, the fact that all of these sources are anonymous and don’t seem to include anyone from the Leno camp suggests that Carter’s story should become part of another fun story: “Network Moves to Push Out Popular Late Night Star Without Leaving Fingerprints.”
3. What do you have to do to get fired in Washington?
The week before last, the Washington Post reported that the federal General Services Administration “was ordered…to reinstate a senior executive who lost his job last year amid revelations of lavish spending at a Las Vegas conference.” Something called the Merit Systems Protection Board, the Post reported, had “ruled the agency failed to prove that the career civil servant in charge of federal buildings in the Rocky Mountain region was guilty of misconduct.”
The official, Paul Prouty, was awarded 11 months’ back pay and returned to his job as head of federal buildings in the agency’s Rocky Mountain region.
As the Post reminded its readers, “The $823,000 conference… became an embarrassment for the Obama administration after GSA Inspector General Brian Miller [reported] last April on a four-day junket that had spun out of control. Lodging at an opulent hotel, entertainment by a $3,200 mind reader, after-hours parties in 2,400-square-foot loft suites, a $7,000 sushi reception, a bicycle-building exercise — all took place at taxpayers’ expense. The planning included about six scouting trips, at a tab of $130,000.”
According to the Post, “dozens of employees from Prouty’s staff in Region 8 attended the conference.” But his lawyer told the Post that although Prouty “engaged in some of the planning, GSA was unable to provide any evidence of misconduct.”
“At least two other fired senior executives are awaiting rulings from the merit board on similar appeals,” the Post noted.
So here’s an obvious follow-up: What does it take to fire a senior civil servant? Can incompetence ever be good enough, or must there be proof of misconduct, which has more to do with motive than performance? And is anyone in Congress or elsewhere pushing for a change in these budget-challenged times? (Then again, it would seem odd for anyone in Congress to want simple incompetence to be a trigger for losing a job.)
I bet a good reporter with a knack for conveying the absurd would have a field day attending a few Merit Systems Protection Board hearings.